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Styling Guide

Five Memorable Table Settings by CEO, Seb Bishop

Five Memorable Table Settings by CEO, Seb Bishop

At Summerill and Bishop we believe that the most important moments in life happen around the table. It is the place where we share laughter, create memories, and spend time with our loved ones. Simply, to us the table is the heart of the home. 
To express his views on the significance of the table, our CEO and Creative Director, Seb Bishop, reflects on his cherished memories around the table, recounting moments from his childhood, when he sat alongside cousins, siblings, aunts, grandparents, and uncles in a crammed top-floor apartment overlooking the French coastline, to sharing his stories of table setting inspired by the scenery from his travels (he always carries a tablecloth in his bag). Lastly, he recounts his fondest memories around the S&B table at our charming corner shop on Portland Road. Through these memories, Seb illustrates how a simple table can weave together stories and traditions.
Welcome to the world of S&B...
#1 Our table in the South of France...
 Each summer my family and I decamp to the South of France. Happy, halcyon days are embellished by the warmth of the sun, the scent of pine trees on the evening breeze, fresh food, and the sparkling mirage of the pool. My memories of this place always hinge on one particular image: soft, magical light that dances upon the rippling water of the pool as we enjoy lunch together as a family. The light there is unlike anywhere else in the world… if you know, you know. We tried to capture that playfulness of light upon the water’s surface in our ‘La Piscine’ Table Linen Collection - we wanted something that embodied that insouciant way of life in summertime and what better than a shimmering swimming pool scene.
# 2 My childhood table... 
Dinners at home were nothing short of educational. Whenever my parents had friends over, I was always encouraged to pull up a chair – no matter the occasion or who the guests were. For my Mum and Dad, it was a case of the more the merrier. Various faces, some familiar and some not so, sharing food and conversation, pepper memories of my childhood. It was so enriching, even if I didn’t realise it at the time. It was at my parents table that I learnt the art of conversation, how to tell a joke, how to debate and how to listen. Their friends came from all walks of life and I absorbed so much from the exchanges that took place. My parents would always be sure to involve me in the conversation, I wasn’t allowed to merely sit there. Mum knew we’d all stay at the table for longer if it looked beautiful, she knew it was a landscape for us to learn and so she always made sure it was set, even if simply. I inherited this trait from her.
  #3 The Summerill & Bishop table, Portland Road...
Later in life when I had important decisions to make or anxieties to share, I would often visit Mum at Summerill & Bishop, the shop she founded with her best friend June in Clarendon Cross, London. The table, that sits proudly to this day in the heart of the shop, has been privy to many conversations between us - we would talk at length about anything and everything, the trivial things and the defining moments. When she passed away suddenly in 2014, everything changed. I was faced with what to do with the business. Ultimately, it was my memories of her that inspired me to keep the shop open and take the business in a new direction. Our mission now, is to gather family and friends around the table, to get them talking by designing beautiful tablecloths. We estimate that in the past five years, close to a half of a million people have sat round a table adorned with a Summerill & Bishop tablecloth. It feels like an impressive figure, and I hope it’s one that honours Mum and June’s legacy.
[ S&B on Portland Road back in 1994 ]
[ 30 years later, the S&B table on Portland Road dressed in the 'Fraises des Bois' Collection ] 
 #4 The table in my new home...
I think a dedicated dining room is a coming-of-age thing. I moved to a new home recently and it was one of the first rooms that I focused on readying for my family. When I was younger, it perhaps wouldn’t have been an immediate priority. Mealtimes are important to my wife and I; we love to hear everything that our children got up to that day, much like my Mum did with me. I find that within a dining room, there are less distractions and so we all take the time to really listen to one another. The space and the table ultimately allow us to download our days together. Answers from my children are rarely monosyllabic within this room. When we come together for dinner, we eat from plates handmade by my wife, who is a talented ceramicist, and my children will have some hand in setting the table. We lay the table with a tablecloth that is hand stamped with Mum’s Falling Flower – a motif she would draw to sign off all her correspondence. It’s as though she’s still at the table with us. For me, the table is a place to pass knowledge, inspiration, tradition and memory and it’s a place to value every moment shared with the people that you love. Laying the table is a ritual that I will continue for my family, and I hope, one day, they are inspired to do the same for their own families.
[ Bernadette's 'Falling Flower' gracefully set in Seb's home ] 
 #5 A table with a view...
When I was very young, my family and I would visit Saint Jean de Luz on the west coast of France near Biarritz. It’s a little coastal city with cobbled streets and picturesque Basque architecture. Every summer, my entire extended family would cram into this top floor apartment that overlooked the beach, cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, grandparents. All of us would pour in from a day at the beach, covered in sand, sun kissed and sometimes sunburnt, and all of us would begin to prepare whatever was going to be served for supper that evening – everyone played their part in the food preparation. We’d all then proceed, perched on various mismatched chairs around the table, to enjoy a meal together. That table was such a magical place and conjures many happy memories for me.

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